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Big Data, Cloud, Social and Mobility == Super Disruption

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment
Did I leave out anything? Well, there was just no other way to end 2011 than by taking a quick look at the big four buzzwords that will likely combine to unleash a perfect storm of disruptive forces over the next 12 months or so.
Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Over the course of this blogging campaign I have focused mostly on cloud and certain relevant aspects (e.g. content, security, access and Intellectual Property), but the fact remains that other equally profound developments, such as: big data, social and mobile computing also provide significant challenges and opportunities for both consumers and the enterprise. Gartner predicts that the above four forces will combine to transform the IT landscape in 2012, and I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, this will probably go much further than the IT landscape, since such a potent combination can easily transform entire industries as well.

In 2011, the impact of social media and mobility meant that many organisations sought ways to engage better with their customers, using social media and mobile technologies. Also various organisations, ranging from consumer products to public sector, actively looked for ways to manage and leverage increasingly large amounts of ‘big data’ and valuable content, sometimes in ways that almost rivalled traditional content industries. Think publishing, broadcast and, of course, social media footprint in your organisation today and compare it to just 3 years ago.

So what does each of the aforementioned forces portend for industries in 2012, and what are the early signs or indicators of disruption? My imaginary crystal ball has misted over slightly, but the following are some key trends to watch for the coming year:

  1. Big Data – According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), there will be more networked devices than people on earth, by year end 2011. With so many networked devices, and a related prediction that this number will double to over 2 devices per person by 2015, this is a clear indicator of the trajectory of growth for big Data over the next few years.
  2. Cloud – Cloud service providers will continue to improve and optimise services, particularly at the Data Centre level, in order to provide a seamless and efficient solution for their customers. Key focus areas include: security, intelligent storage, unified networking, policy-based power management, and trusted computing capabilities. Basically, anything that will make it easier to transition customers to the cloud environment, along with greater confidence in sustainable delivery and quality of service will win the day
  3. Social – Social media, networking and CRM all represent a move towards user centric engagement models that will allow a two way conversation between the enterprise and their: customers, suppliers, partners and employees. The user expectation of more meaningful and productive dialogue with the enterprise is only set to increase over the next 12 months
  4. Mobility – This is both a technology and use centric force which readily demonstrates the combination of all three forces along with location (in space and time). In the paradigm shifting world of context aware computing, the user and their activities are central to the flow and direction of dialogue / interaction with the enterprise. Increasingly users expect the enterprise to be able to leverage contextually relevant information when dealing with them, and this in turn drives enterprise adoption of enabling technologies to provide this capability.

A good case in point will be the summer Olympic Games in London, which should provide a fertile proving ground for many of the combined challenges and opportunities presented by the four buzzwords / trends discussed above.

In conclusion, I expect no less than a step change in disruption levels across industries over the next 12 months, or so. The gloomy economic situation will only enhance the need for change, particularly in situations where: competitors are plunging ahead; customers are expecting even more for nothing; and employees are demanding similar levels of service and user experience from their enterprise, as might be expected for a consumer – which they likely are. Some very interesting times lie ahead.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE

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The ISP Dilemma Continues

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Some time ago I wrote a post about the challenges facing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over whether they can afford to be the police of the Internet, with respect to helping find and stop persistent abuse of content, and other illegal online activities by their users. This is still a serious issue today, particularly in light of the cloud, hence the urge to revisit that post here.

The biggest challenge then was around the growing perception of ISPs as de-facto gatekeepers of the Internet, which effectively added another layer of complexity to their traditional / core business. As a result, not only do ISPs have to deal with existing and non-trivial issues (e.g. declining markets, convergent evolution via multi-play business models, and issues around increasing broadband / bandwidth consumption), they also have to contend with the fact that:

  • Content owners still want ISPs to play a more central role in preventing, detecting, monitoring and punishing illegal file sharing (e.g. via schemes like the infamous three strikes proposal).
  • Various initiatives by governments around the world, such as the UK’s Digital Economy Act, are put in place to help provide much needed governance and teeth to the need for ways to monitor and combat illegal activities including copyright infringement.
  • There still are also signs of lack of trust by ISP customers over service quality / charges, and potential invasion of privacy

These all add up to a severe headache for ISPs, and may be made even worse when you throw cloud services into the mix. Some of the options, or combinations thereof, that ISPs have used or considered using to deal with these key challenges include:

  • Targeted advertising schemes – preferably via opt-in models as a way to help subsidise the cost of service. In some cases even extending to much cheaper or even “free” access, for your usage information, of course.
  • Industry self regulation – Still not easy to do, but one that would benefit the entire industry, and help address the pressures from content owners
  • Network Controls – Invest in better ways to track, monitor and control or “shape”  network traffic, in order to deliver better quality of service, promote fair use, and support law enforcement
  • Partner with content owners – To explore new and more flexible content business models. E.g. a survery found that music fans might actually prefer ISPs as their music supplier. However the advent since of cloud based music and streaming services may have changed that landscape somewhat.

In any case, it is still advisable for ISPs to bear in mind the following three points in trying to deal with this dilemma:

  1. Do not alienate or irritate the customer – protecting the customer relationship and keeping their trust is still key to future success
  2. Resist excessive external pressures – Content owners need ISPs as much as ISPs need them, and perhaps even more so
  3. Take the initiative – ISPs should be more proactive in creating customer-pleasing, regulator-friendly propositions and business models (perhaps by working closely with consumers and content owners)

Overall, there is no easy way to slow down the natural evolution of the Internet, and cloud services, therefore ISPs need to do more to understand, evolve and embrace what is really a critical niche in the digital content ecosystem. The cloud is here for all, and it is here to stay.

 

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE

IT Security: Still Hot & Cloudy!

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

This a refresh of an older, but still relevant, post I did last year about security and cloud which remains mostly true even today. The origin and subject of the post was from an event on IT security at the BCS Chartered institute for IT which featured 3 speakers on IT Security and Cloud.

I said back then that if I was a betting man, I’d wager the IT security industry was on the brink of a major revolution on the back of the Cloud, and indeed that still appears to be the case today. In fact, the question asked then of how many people in the audience actively used the cloud will have many more hands raised in response, if asked today, mainly because people are much more aware of the cloud then before. Which is not to say that the cloud has completely become front and centre; it still exists rightfully behind the scenes, powering various services that may still be taken for granted by the consumer, however some more recent services are also leveraging increased awareness of cloud by consumers and positioning themselves directly as cloud services. E.g. think Apple’s iCloud or Amazon’s Cloud drive for instance.

But I digress, what’s this got to do with IT Security you ask? The answer is very simple, if the cloud is really a behind-the-scenes enabler, then cloud security should also be behind the scenes right? But I still have this uneasy feeling, that we’ll yet see someone get sued over security breaches emanating from the Cloud. How long will it be before we get cloud compliance and cloud security risk assessment models, regulations and perhaps even exotic insurance policy for Cloud based services? Furthermore, the Internet (and consequently the cloud) is essentially borderless technology, which means that various national and international data governance regimes may have a thing or two to say about where data is stored – assuming it can be found in one place! This could well be a nightmare in the making for eDisclosure and/or eDiscovery.

Finally, apparently some clever Silicon Valley types are actively seeking ways to commoditize the cloud, and cloud based services, such that it can be traded as a financial instrument. Hmmm, now where did we see that one before (does Collateralized Debt Obligation ring a bell)? Suffice it to say there’s a lot of food for thought when it comes to Cloud Security, and far better qualified people than I have pondered, spoken and written about it (e.g. see my  review of an excellent book about Cloud Security), so I shall just leave well enough alone.

To conclude, I dare say that cloud has come a long way since last year, especially in the minds of consumers, and it is looking likely to stay that way for a while yet, or at least until the next big hot topic strikes the zeitgeist. We can only wait and see.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE

Categories: Cloud, Security Tags: , ,

Copyright and the Cloud

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

As promised in my last blog post, the focus this time is very much around the challenges of Intellectual Property, (esp. copyright), in a cloud context. Content protection is one thing, but establishing exactly what one can and can’t do with content in the cloud is equally as important, if not more so, in an environment where geographic location is almost irrelevant. The key question is if and how copyright will survive and thrive in the context of cloud.

Copyright and Cloud

Copyright and cloud

The answer currently tends towards ‘not so well’. At least, not without a major overhaul of copyright, and its various regional incarnations, to work seamlessly in a global context. Last week’s Copyright and Technology 2011 conference (see great recap here by Bill Rosenblatt) provided much food for thought, and some insight on the key challenges facing copyright in the highly mobile, cloud enabled, information intensive content usage scenarios of today and tomorrow. Below are 3 highlights from the event, in my opinion:

  1. The brilliant keynote address by Microsoft’s Tom Rubin spelt out some key policy considerations for achieving what he describes as “copyright at the speed of light”, which addressed several vital topics including: clarity on orphan works; need for copyright registry / licence databases; improved metadata; better policies to address the divergent focus of copyright (i.e. territorial outlook) versus cloud (i.e. global outlook); as well as the need for frictionless cross border licensing. He concluded with 3 areas of focus for policies to help prepare and optimise copyright for the cloud, including: 1) appropriate enforcement; 2) robust metadata; and 3) streamlined licensing. These he claims will go some way towards realising the potential for “fantastic user experience with creative works in the cloud”, and I wholeheartedly agree.
  1. I moderated a panel session which focused on the lessons from real world implementation of DRM, and which provided some good insight from three speakers who already earned their stripes implementing DRM for clients. For example, my question about how to provide fine grained control over user access to specific content within a certain building/location elicited an answer, with examples, of how this was already being designed and implemented for clients in the airline and hospitality (e.g. hotel) industries. I imagine there are great opportunities here for events and venues (e.g. conferences, concerts, major sporting events, art galleries, educational and other public institutions). By the way, the simplest approach involves exclusive content access, via Wi-Fi and browser, which cuts out once a user moves outside the area of coverage. However, the level of sophistication can increase dramatically when this is also aligned with DRM secured content, and location based functionality (which is readily available on most smart mobile devices), plus a dash of Augumented Reality, for that added vavavoom. The possibilities are mind boggling.
  1. Finally, I found out some people were seriously creating real world applications for Digital Personal Property (DPP), which is probably best described as a way of making digital content to be more like physical property). DPP involves creating ‘unique’ digital copies of content (e.g. music, films or books) such that once a copy is lent, resold or otherwise given to another party, the original will no longer be accessible to the lender, seller or giver, respectively. Hmmm, whilst on the one hand this makes a certain kind of sense, particularly from the ‘property’ side of Intellectual Property (i.e. think digital property or currency in virtual worlds and online games e.g. Second Life or Farmville); on the other hand, it appears such a mind numbingly daft, futile and King Canute like venture to try and force digital content into an analogue world view, operating within a digital environment! It brings back to mind the spectacular failure of previous attempts to enforce highly intrusive DRM mechanisms over digital content. Having said that, I somehow get the impression that this will be a most interesting development to watch, mainly because of the potential for surprising outcomes from such apparently ‘foolish’ endeavours. A little lateral thinking never hurt anyone. For more information about DPP and the two interesting / controversial initiatives, just click on IEEE P1817 and/or Redigi (the latter is already embroiled in legal tussles with the RIAA, but then that is not surprising!). I’d be very interested to hear about any other DPP projects going on out there.

In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that copyright in a cloud context brings to very sharp relief to some of the key challenges that need addressing for that next step in cultural and socio-economic evolution. This includes: the need for some fairly significant adjustment of the Intellectual Property mechanism within the digital environment; a rethink of physical geographical or territorial boundaries in a digital world; and perhaps an exploration of other, better ways to assess the true value of digital content, in light of usage and context. Like I said earlier, lots of food for thought indeed.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE